Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Righteous Shall Live By Faith

righteousness in the scriptures

The righteous shall live by faith is an expression found in the Tanakh, or what Christians call, the Old Testament, and the New Testament in the following: Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.

Briefly, the Habakkuk reference was in the time of Israel’s ongoing assault by her enemies; a time of lawlessness and chaos. The apostle Paul introduces the expression in Romans in order that the saints in Christ might understand that the righteousness which is pleasing to God spans from faith to faith. The Galatians reference is to address the conflict troubling the saints by some who mistakenly wanted to impose on them the law of Moses as a means of righteousness. Lastly, the Hebrews expression is of the saints in Christ who were encouraged to persevere in that righteousness to which they had attained. Is there something about this expression which the saints in Christ misunderstand with respect to other seekers who do not a share similar understanding of scripture?

righteousness from faith to faith

I believe the single, key passage in the above verses is Paul’s words in Romans 1:17. The context of chapter one spans the history of man and man’s response to the evidence in nature which attest to the Divine, Transcendent Creator God. The expression testifies to the fact and reality that the righteousness of God is from faith, as in Abraham or before Abraham (think of Enoch, Genesis 5:24, Noah; Genesis 6)  to faith as in Israel, and now, the saints in Christ. What is this faith which God recognized and esteemed highly in men? Is the righteousness that is according to God and pleasing to God what some saints have enumerated and listed as a key must-do checklist of points?

Although there is precious little said about about Enoch the scripture notes that he, walked with God. The same testimony is given of Noah. (Genesis 6:9) It is also attested of Noah that he was an heir and preacher of righteousness. (Hebrews 11:5, II Peter 2:5) What Noah inherited was what he learned from Enoch, namely, walking with God. Righteousness is what Noah himself preached in the days leading up to the destruction of the flood. Somehow it seems highly improbable that teaching righteousness, teaching others to walk with God or calling men to righteousness is accomplished through anything less than the outpouring of the one teaching. It is most definitely not accomplished through a must-do checklist.


Could this possibly mean that righteousness and teaching are related? I believe the teaching of righteousness was a part of what Enoch passed on to his descendants including Noah. Similarly, Yahweh was confident of Abraham's faithfulness to command, that is, to teach his children to do righteousness:

For I have chosen him, 
that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice,
so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.Genesis 18:19

A similar relatedness between righteousness and teaching was made by Jesus when he admonished the disciples to a righteousness which exceeded that of the Pharisees. (Matthew 5:20) The context of the chapter concerns the commandments of God and keeping and teaching others to do so.

It is with this in mind that the apostle Paul’s words ring powerfully and wonderfully loud for the wonder and awe of the saints as to what God has done.

For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

What do the references we persuade, (II Cor 5:11) the word of reconciliation (II Cor 5:19) allude to if not teaching? What is striking about what Paul states is what Jesus was made and what we have become.

Jesus might not have looked or felt anymore like sin than we look or feel like righteousness,
but that is what he was made and that is what we have become.

We are, that is, we have become, the walking embodiment of the righteousness, the teaching, of the will of God. This reality does not change or vary because of ourselves. Let us not diffuse or diminish the significance of these words with words of our own, "nobody is perfect." The notion of perfection as sinlessness is as foreign to the scriptures as is the doctrine of original sin. This reality of us as righteousness is in spite of ourselves and our fleshly tendencies. It is through the Holy Spirit who indwells us and it is what the saints of the faith that is in Christ Jesus are called to teach.

a desert scenario
There’s a familiar, age-old query with which the saving message of the gospel is subjected. It is the scenario about the man in the middle of the desert who dies believing in God, but who was never baptized. What’s more, he never knew the God of the Tanakh, the God of the New Testament, the God of the Bible. He never knew the Jesus of the scriptures. This represents a frantic frustration for the saints in Christ. The response from the saints often reveals that despite preaching God’s love and grace for mankind some saints do not see the love and grace of God for those who never heard the gospel.

This gospel, as revealed in the New Testament, is the message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but Paul makes it clear it was preached long before to Abraham. (Galatians 3:3) I find it powerful that Paul states, The SCRIPTURE, foreseeing . . . preached the good news. (CAPS, gt) The idea that such a man in the desert might never have been baptized or worse never heard of Jesus could be among the righteous who live by faith is more than some saints can bear and it troubles them. It’s not that it takes anything from their own faith or salvation, but that they find themselves at a loss to preach the gospel message of the love and grace of God without apology and with confidence. This scenario is reflects the uneasiness of some saints concerning their teaching. It also reflects the (self) justification of others to take their stance against anything they regard as a work in favor of a claim of faith. However, this is mistaken.


The reason it is mistaken is because the righteous who live by faith do not dismiss the will of God because they have believed in God, or even more, because God has reckoned their faith as righteousness. Rather, they submit themselves to fulfill the commandment of God. Jesus submitted to the baptism of John in order to fulfill all righteousness. (Matthew 3:15) Abraham did not dismiss circumcision on the basis of his belief in God when God commanded it of Abraham. He did not dismiss God’s command to offer Isaac as a sacrifice because he believed God. Moses and Israel never dismissed circumcision because they had come to the knowledge of I AM, THAT I AM.

What Abraham, Moses and Israel never did concerning circumcision or animal sacrifices as works, - some believers are quick to do concerning baptism as a work. The proverbial man in the desert upon learning the will of God for him whether it were circumcision, baptism or something other would be no quicker than Abraham to do as God commanded because of their belief in God. Furthermore, WERE HE TO DIE after having lived by faith and never known either circumcision,.baptism or something other, he is a child of the kingdom. He will be received by the Father. Yes, this truth may be as hard and as disdainful for some saints as it was for the Jews to hear Jesus declare Zacchaeus a son of Abraham. However, it is according to the love and mercy God has extended to those who seek and love him. They are the righteous who live by faith. We, the saints in Christ, are similarly called to live by faith, not in spite of our faith and trust in Jesus, but because of it.

Peace to all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Indwelling of Deity in Jesus

(A look at the claim (when) and proof (how) of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer.)

look to Jesus

I have a fundamental approach to questions and subjects which either I do not understand or I am ready to examine more closely for a better understanding. I look to Jesus. I want to understand what Jesus said and what he did on a particular matter in order for me to gain insight and understanding. There is at least one claim which people have developed to develop their understanding of deity. One example is to rank deity. This is accomplished, in their mind, by ranking the Father as first, the Son as second, and the Holy Spirit as third. The net result of creating a short list of hierarchy ranking is a simplified approach of the subject of deity. However, this claim does little or nothing to enhance the understanding of the saints concerning deity or the indwelling of deity in the believer. What does make for our understanding is to examine and understand what Jesus declared as the proof of how deity, that is, the Father dwelt in Jesus. Then, the saints will be able to boldly and confidently assert the indwelling of deity in them. So, I hope to encourage the saints as is the intended purpose the message of this article.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Jesus: Love & Hate

Recently, my attention was drawn by the LOVE/HATE format on an NFL program. Once again, I was struck by yet another instance of an attempt to bring together these two seemingly disparate opposites of good and evil even if it was in a sports program. Granted, that the sports program talk was detached (how ironic; it’s a violent contact sport) from any violence, but the semblance of love and hate in the broader context of culture is, arguably, just as detached from reality. It looks and sounds like what is of faith just enough to deceive those disciples who succumb to it.

the scope of this article

I have chosen as the scope of this article, lest anyone should cry foul, to place the burden of the oft heard claims and charges of love and hate in this article, actual or perceived, not on nonbelievers, but on my brothers and sisters in Christ. It's not because there is any truth or accuracy in those claims or those charges. Rather, it is because we who have believed in Jesus have grappled with, understood and accepted love and hate as spoken by Jesus - even if we sometimes forget the meaning and significance of those words. The perceptions and displays of love and hate by the saints in Christ for or against homosexuals and homosexuality is an opportunity to explore and challenge our understanding of love and hate.

the source of those perceptions

Regardless of how few or how many make up that group of brothers and sisters in the body of believers in the church who either accept, condone or practice homosexuality there is a need to understand the source of those perceptions and influences. Just what is the semblance of love and hate which has led them to that point? It requires something more than the manner of the world to let fly claims and charges flippantly. It is important to keep in mind that it is this group, my brothers and sisters of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, which makes up the content and context of this article. So, there will be no further need to repeat this clarification.

The ignorance and acceptance concerning homosexuality by the saints in Christ follows from the equally ignorant and mistaken understanding of love and hate from the scriptures. It is a direct influence of culture on the saints while simultaneously claiming to be disciples of Jesus. There is hardly, in the crossfire of those claims and charges, any more understanding than truth that one loves Jesus or that one hates homosexuals. Those who rail at others with their hate are as ugly and mistaken as those who deceptively shower with love others. Such seeming demonstrations of love are at the expense of a compromise. They represent a corruption of those things, namely the word of God; the scriptures, which they do know and do understand with respect to love and hate as revealed by Jesus and Paul.

love and hate in Jesus’ speech

Certainly, the New Testament writers did not dismiss, conceal or otherwise soften these words as spoken by Jesus into something other than what he intended. He spoke openly and candidly of love and hate; two words often peddled, stretched and distorted to the limit in the form of claims, charges and accusations, today.

What Jesus conveyed, with these words, was a discomforting concept with the intended single purpose, namely, to cause the would-be disciple, -alone and no one else-, to ponder for himself/herself what and who he/she loves more and hates less.
These two passages from Luke and Matthew relate the words on the call of Jesus for the would-be disciple, that is, a follower of Jesus, and what it costs to follow after Jesus.
“Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword. 35  For I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36  A man’s foes will be those of his own household. 37  He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me. 38  He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me. 39  He who seeks his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.  The gospel according to Matthew 20

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. The gospel according to Luke, chapter 14
disciples succumb to the source
The tension in the words love and hate was captured by the NT writers, not as contradictions as some are quick to charge, but as a way of viewing and understanding the concept and meaning of discipleship in Jesus.

Neither, were these words spoken by Jesus to his disciples to elicit or incite animosity, disdain, hatred or violence on anyone in the faith that is in Christ Jesus or anyone outside of the love, grace and fellowship of the faithful in Jesus. (A disciple is a follower of Jesus.)
Today, love and hate are just another kernel pressed and mashed for mass consumption by culture in America as what is politically correct; as though love and hate were polemically and diametrically opposed to each other; nothing at all as Jesus spoke and meant those words. The politically correct claim (and an expectation to be heeded) is that the person who loves accepts, embraces and tolerates without question; this, as a show of diversity through unity. However, nothing could be farther from the truth.

There is no room for tolerance for personal convictions in culture. Conversely, the politically incorrect person who hates is that person who so much as says or does anything much less think of anything contrary to what has been established by culture. Culture does not have nor does it need the status or authority of legal or religious belief systems or government agencies to exert its conventions or its force. The semblance of politically correct claims for those without discernment may sound and look very much like those of faith and law systems, but these are far from being the same. Really, the fact that disciples succumb to culture is nothing more than peer pressure, called bullying in some contexts, and the human need to belong (and the fear of standing alone) by which culture gains and holds sway over society, one individual on one individual, at a time.
a semblance of law and faith

What does the use of these two seemingly different and disparate terms reveal about the embrace or rejection of homosexuality by the saints in Christ?

Simply, that it is what a person loves more and what a person hates less. It is that a person will choose what he/she loves over what he/she does not love. It is that a person will choose what he/she hates less over what he/she hates more.

The biblical use of these words reflects the crucible to which the would-be disciple is called. He is to settle the question of following Jesus in his mind along with his/her decision and determination of heart, mind, soul and strength to commit their lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior. There is no semblance of delusions about the road ahead. There are no dilutions (that is, a watering down of bible-founded convictions) of a culturally strained faith of appeasement. There is no semblance of any rigors of law to force the disciple, only the focused, clear resolve to commit their lives in obedience to the one whose death and resurrection which once confounded them has now convicted them of its significance and meaning for their life.

There is no semblance of love, because it is love. There is no semblance of hate, because it is hate. Effectively, these words represent the proverbial glass half full, glass half empty, that is, seeing and stating the same thing from a different perspectives. When Jesus cast father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters in the context of hate it was because he was just as willing to reveal himself and place himself in the position of one who is hated - LESS or loved MORE than family.

Some saints might feign offense and shirk at the idea of hating Jesus, but this is quite familiar for the disciple who has understood the call of Jesus to be crucified with Christ and take up his cross and follow Jesus.

There is nothing about the crucifixion or being crucified that is endearing or which evokes warm cuddles. It is with this understanding that the disciple acknowledges frankly that he HATES Jesus even as that disciple is drawn to Him because the disciple HATES his own LIFE EVEN MORE. His/her determination to follow Jesus is an act of HATE, that is, a move away* from family in order to be a disciple of Jesus. There is no more joy for the disciple in being crucified with Christ than there was joy for Jesus in being crucified. However, the writer noted this about Jesus in Hebrews 12:2, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross. Joy is what awaited Jesus. It is what awaits the disciple just the other side of crucifixion. Again, this is not some delusion about all things being rosy, but joy in the scriptures is forever associated with the extraordinary and it is so aptly captured in the speechless response of the disciples when they saw the resurrected Jesus:

While they still didn’t believe for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat? (Luke 24:41)

Understanding their state of shock Jesus drew the disciples to the simple, mundane act of having some breakfast on the shores of Galilee. How vastly different the need for rants and chants to shock the unwary into listening, today. These methods reveal that culture is the primary root of influence in that message for or against these charges and judgments on people about love and hate. The charges are not in accordance with law. They are not in accordance with faith. They are definitely not with love and hate as taught by Jesus. One ought not marvel at these methods, because a dead message without life requires the same treatment as a dead person: shock.
The purpose of judgment
Judgment, according to culture, is something to be discarded as primitive and, - hateful or hate-filled. And, in one of those like faith claims of culture it is pointed out Jesus said his disciples were not to judge. Quite true. However, the context (see Matthew 7:1ff) of those words reveals it was an admonition against making hasty or rash judgments.

One instance where Jesus did make a judgment, and which is often overlooked, was when he said to a woman caught in the act of adultery and who was brought to Jesus: Go your way. From now on sin no more. Likewise, the apostle Paul passed judgment on a fornicator (referred to by Paul as a, so-called brother) in the church at Corinth. Paul did so without having met the man, but having been fully apprised of the situation he not only judged the individual, but urged the saints in Christ in Corinth to do likewise.

The distinction of these two judgments which is also mostly overlooked is that they were with the utmost regard for and the intended restoration and salvation of the individuals. These judgments of sin were not unto condemnation nor were they license for a carnal, public spectacle. There was/is nothing spiteful or hateful in those judgments of and by faith against sin made either by Jesus, by Paul or the disciples as taught and and as was demonstrated by Jesus and Paul.

allegations and false fear

Homosexuals and advocates of homosexuality have learned and made use of the label of homophobic to apply it to anyone (I’m confident I was cast in that mold quite a while back at the start of this article) who speaks a word without a full embrace of homosexuality. Compounding that charge of fear is the charge of judgment; both of which are as inaccurate as they are unfortunately sometimes true. The fear and lack of confidence in the saints shows in their inability and unwillingness to make judgments, but the apostle John encourages the saints on the matter of judgment, fear and love with these words:

In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love him, because he first loved us.  If a man says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother. I John 4:17-21

Literally, the label-term homophobic means to fear what is the same. (Interesting to note how some online sources which purport to define the word focus on phobic (fear) and say nothing about the homo (same) part of the word.) Suffice it to say that the use of labels in this manner plays well to foment and stir up the sensibilities (or, the carnal mind, as the apostle Paul described it) of the people, but nothing by way of understanding and enlightenment.

False allegations of fear and hate abound, but this is the influence and way of culture as much on some saints as those outside the body, that is, the church of Christ. The truth is there is nothing to fear or hate about homosexuals or homosexuality any more than any of the other sins enumerated by Paul in I Corinthians 6:9;10. Rather, the ancient admonishment heed is found in Genesis when God said to Cain: Sin is at the door, but you must master it.
a life _ not

If it is true life is stranger than fiction it may be equally true that banner slogans, one-liner retorts and phrases may reflect a good bit (or in any case, a semblance) of truth such as, - get a life. However, dismissing Jesus’ words regarding father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters because one has been orphaned and without siblings is shortsighted, if not evasive. It is a simple truth. The person has their own life, still.

The call from Jesus for those who would follow after him is to lose their life in order that they might find it and attain eternal life.

yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple, said Jesus.

Simply and truthfully and as cleared as Jesus stated it such a person who LOVES their life MORE than Jesus cannot be his disciple. It is that love for their own life which turns and draws them away* from Jesus. Those who HATE Jesus LESS than their meaningless life are those who turn and are drawn to Jesus because they hate their lives MORE than they HATE Jesus. There are no delusions about the horror and spectacle of the crucifixion of the Jesus or the crucifying of self to sin to live no more for self, but to live for Jesus.

A person who HATES Jesus MORE than his family and life it is that hate which turns and draws them away from Jesus. They have chosen to live that life without Jesus. They cannot be his disciple. Any softening and peddling of words and claims and charges of HATE and LOVE or even laying claim to a semblance of what Jesus spoke does not change those words spoken by Jesus.


Jesus spoke the words love and hate to impress on people what it means and costs to follow him. These words were never taught or intended to cast animosity, hatred or disdain on anyone in the Lord or outside of the fellowship of the saints who are in Christ Jesus.

Although culture has its own semblance of love and hate these words were never taught by Jesus or the apostles without understanding, knowing and obeying the call of Jesus to follow after him. Government laws, whether they were created out of love, hate or some semblance of righteousness for a country can not and do not speak the righteousness of God as proclaimed and made known by the saints in Christ. The saints in Christ tend to be quick to think they stand and uphold righteousness when they rally behind government laws which ostracize and condemn rather than trust on the Spirit of God who indwells the saints to fill and guide them in all wisdom.

Embracing or rejecting love or hate as a display for all to see is a mere semblance of love and hate as spoken, taught and demonstrated by Jesus and the apostles.

Practice and live what you have understood and do so with conviction. Joy and confidence is found in the saints in Christ who love him more or hate him less than family, possession or, even _ their life. Life, abundant and eternal is in Jesus. peace to all.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Melchizedek, priest of God Most High

A few thoughts on Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of God Most High, as mentioned in Hebrews 7.

I still remember my first introduction in seminary to Melchizedek. The explanation was weak and unconvincing at best and without any lessons for the saints in Christ at worse.

The fact that Melchizedek's brief but significant appearance in the book of Genesis in connection with father Abraham was one of great prominence for Israel does not escape the writer of Hebrews. In a book which introduces every significant character with their genealogy, that is, their beginning, there is no mention of Melchizedek's genealogy, hence, the Hebrews account that he was "without father, without mother."

We, the saints in Christ, are quick in our sternness towards Jews on their inability or unwillingness to ponder much less grasp the significance and implications which surround Melchizedek. However, we, too, often fail.

Among the lessons which reverberate from Melchizedek as much for Israel as for the saints in Christ is that 1) God has always had faithful witnesses and servants long before Israel or the church. The value of one's genealogy is that 2) one can effectively say they "were there" in the same sense Levi was there in the body his father Abraham when he paid tithes to Melchizedek. (7:9) As genealogies go 3) ancestors two or generations in one's past may appear with names different than our own, yet, the genealogy establishes our mutual heritage.

Israel and the church share a similar reaction in their inability and willingness to understand and accept that those who are of and "live by faith" do not and may not look like us, but they are no less faithful servants and witnesses of God Most High. Certainly, Israel's reliance on genealogies to stake their claims is no different than some saints who stake their claims on a particular individual or event in history with any reliance on the testimony of scripture being secondary. Here is the confidence of those who are of the faith that is in Christ Jesus; that through that same faith we have claimed we "were there" when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek.